I think it would be hard to find a Rent or Broadway fan in general that did not know of the event taking place this evening. Adam Pascal and Anthony Rapp's highly anticipated return to the Nederlander brought a crowd the likes of which a lot of us had never seen. I heard one person call the lottery a "baby Rent 10" which saw upwards of 1,000 people waiting for the possibility of winning one of the highly coveted thirty four seats in the first two row. We saw around 400 people, but that's not a shabby number, considering only two original cast members would be returning. But, it wasn't just at the lottery where people were talking about it, no. There has obviously been talk on every Rent message board and in every community on line, and much to my surprise, in the cafe where we decided to get dinner, the woman in front of us in line was also talking about her plans to see the show for the night. For the first time in my history with the show, it was sold out. Standing room was raffled off as part of the lottery to keep people from trampling each other one the way to the box office. People filed into the theatre and we could see that no only were the seats and standing room area full. No, there were also a good many swings, understudies and...past cast members, including Miss Gwen Stewart standing behind the sound booth. Tonight was a piece of theatre history, and everyone there knew it.
As 8:00 drew near and people began to take their seats, the surreal feeling started to set in. We would be seeing something that many of us weren't even given the option of seeing last time it happened. There were people from all walks of life filling the seats, from grandparents, to kids, to teenagers and college students. All types of fans gathered together on this special night to share this experience. Some were there as fans of the music, some as fans of the show, some merely fans of the two men who would be joining the cast. Any way you look at it, we all were on pins and needles waiting. I personally do not know anyone who was around for the original cast. Granted, I myself lived in California, and was only eleven years old last time they graced that stage (without counting Rent10), so really this experience was something I never thought I would be privvy to. This opportunity was well received, and while I'm sure some folks from back in the day were there, it was nice to see everyone mixed in, all equal and not fighting with each other about who is the real fan and who isn't. But, more on that later.
When the conductor, David Truskinoff, put his headphones on, and those of us who has seen the show before, knew that meant that Adam Pascal (Roger) would be taking the stage in mere moments. The door at the back corner of the stage open to the roar of applause. We all knew it was coming, but I don't think that anyone, Adam himself (who was sporting the original Roger hair) included by the look on his face, expected that reaction. The crowd was on it's feet after a minute of applause and it continued well through the next four or five minutes as Anthony Rapp (Mark, looking like he hadn't aged a week, let alone eleven years) and the rest of the cast took their positions on the stage. Anthony held tight to his camera and looked out over the audience, waiting for his moment. Adam just smiled. You could tell by the peaceful look on his face, he was happy to be there, and happy to see the positive reaction they had brought by returning to a show that, whether we like it or not, wasn't doing the best in recent months.
The crowd finally settled, it felt as though the entire theatre held a collective breath, waiting for that fateful moment when Mark says, "We begin, on Christmas Eve..." I believe at that moment, all the naysayers were put to rest when they saw how brilliantly a single monologue could be delivered. We've all seen the show before, and we've all seen Marks and Rogers that we enjoyed, but I believe everyone who was in the Nederlander tonight can agree that it's hard to compare to the original. I don't think that anyone even took a breath until he finished and we all heard the "One, two, three!" that starts off the song Rent. You could hear people scooting to the edge of their seats, waiting for Anthony to start singing. Truth be told, if we hadn't known that Broadway was live, I wouldn't be above saying it was a recording. Not that it's unbelievable that original cast members could put forth such a stunning performance, just that...it sounded like we were listen to the OBC recording. Everyone expected good things, but the sounds we heard were beyond good. I would have been extremely nervous to be on that stage with them, but most of the current cast members putted together and did a very good job.
I think it's safe to say that everyone expected that chemistry that Adam and Anthony have always had. They were friends then, they're friends now, and that makes their characters' relationships so much more vibrant than most pairs that I have seen take that stage. There was also a level of intensity that is so refreshing to see. I said something similar about this when Gwen Stewart came back for just a few weeks in April/May. There's something to be said for the people who experienced the light that Jonathon Larson brought to the world. Of course, I don't know him. I wasn't around, I was half the age I am now when he died, but you can hear it in the voices of those who speak of him, and no matter who you are, you can most certainly feel it in the music that he left behind as his legacy. There's so much power and love for the creator in Adam and Anthony. The intensity in their eyes really brings to life the story that he was trying to tell when he wrote Rent.
I think it would take away from the performance to try and touch on every song. I would simply like to say that they flowed through the score seamlessly. Everything felt like it was done the way that it was MEANT to be done. Adam brought One Song Glory to a new level. Anthony blew us away with La Vie Boheme and showed everyone why they still use his way of doing things. They were hand picked and told from the source, and none of the creatives that currently work on the show have the chance to taint their performance the way that they unfortunately do with so many of the new cast additions. Simple lines have so much power when they're done with the simple intensity that they brought to it. Small gestures and motions were more noticeable, because they wanted them to be. Vocal inflections brought tears to my eyes and everyone around me as well. We all laughed, most of us cried, and the clapping was deafening. I am very pleased to say that Adam is just as much the "pretty boy front man" as he ever was, and Anthony, though he may take himself more seriously, has not lost a thread of his dorkiness that brought Mark to life all those years ago. It felt like for one night the Nederlander theatre was turned into a concert hall and a rock and roll band was on the stage. Sometimes, the screams were in inappropriate places. Sometimes it was so loud that my head felt like it might explode, and I may not have liked that people were calling out Anthony Rapp by name, rather than respecting the stage and theatre etiquette. But then again, isn't that part of what Jonathon wanted out of the show? He wanted to attract that group of people. The people who spend their time at concerts rather than at Broadway shows. He accomplished his goal, and whether or not that is what we all want, is of little consequence.
I'm sorry that they had to share the stage with some of the actors that they did tonight. Most notably...Nicolette Hart. She's a sweatheart, but not Maureen in my oh so humble opinion. Justin Johnson was the best Angel we could have hoped to accompany them. Likewise with Merle and her Joanne. Tonight was also my first time seeing Tamyra Grey. I never heard or saw her on American idol, so I had no previous experience with her voice or performing. I heard a lot of things about her, both good and bad. Her voice was beautiful, and pleasant. It's obvious she heard some things Antonique Smith did and tried to mimic them. Her voice isn't nearly as strong, but it's not like she does them badly. Many people have been complaining about her acting, but really, only a few things really stuck out as "bad" acting choices. Then there was her hair that looked like devil horns most of the time, but...that's a completely different issue, isn't it? Others were good, but nothing striking.
One of the things that has kept me away from Rent in the past few months, has been the lack of passion in the current cast members. A lot of lines are thrown away like they have little or no meaning. Characters that are supposed to be broken and distraught are played like they're bored. Tonight, there was none of that. I think everyone knew better than to hurt the music that way with two such vital members of the cast on stage. A lot of people saw this as a step backwards for Adam and Anthony. Why go back to where you started, but I say...why NOT go back to where you started? Why not give props to the beautiful piece of work that made you who you are. Why not honor the man that essentially handed you your career on a silver platter? There are millions of fans of Rent. A good portion of them either did not know about the show, or were unable to see the show "back in the day". I, personally, do not believe those people should be punished. So, someone saw the movie before the show. It will never be as good as the show, but can you fault the person? The fact that they responded to that music in ANY form, should be a testiment to their taste and character. Tonight, outside the show, I was disappointed in many fans. I was standing next to a group of fans, a FAMILY no less, who were waiting to get signatures from Adam and Anthony. The father had some choice words and things to say about the younger fans. He stood there next to his teenage daughter and encouraged her to discriminate against those who may not have known as much, or seen the show as often. I found this sickening. They spoke to myself, and Tamra as though we were children who know nothing. When, in reality, that is very much not the case, especially when it comes to Rent. I do not go to the theatre to flaunt my knowledge of the cast members, or of their habits at the stage door. Really? I couldn't care less. I went to the show tonight to see two amazing performers play roles that were tailored to them. Can you ask for anything more from theatre or music? I don't believe you can.
The theme of the show is love and living life. Why would you want to put forth such a negative message when you've just come from such a beautiful performance. That is something I will never understand about people. I hope and pray everyday that they come to the realization that we're all enjoying the same show, and the same music. No one has any more claim to it than anyone else. I am moved by the music in a way that is incomparable to others, simply because we're different people. Someone who was one of the original "Rentheads" that slept on the ground to get a rush seat back in the day has no more claim to the music than my fourteen year old brother who at age ten, while driving in my car heard the OBC recording of La Vie Boheme and decided he loved the song so much he would like to play Mark some day. Who are we to judge, really? Live, and let live.
All in all, the performance was amazing. I don't think I could justify giving tonight up for many things. They brought new life to a show that I love very deeply and have a strong connection to, and for that I am extremely grateful. I believe Jonathon smiled down on the Nederlander tonight. No day, but today.
There may be more on this later, but I'm tired and this feels like it's turned into babble. Oh well, y'all asked, and here ya go lol.